Bantamweights Brian Bowles and Damacio Page will square off in the opening bout on the UFC on Versus 3 main card on Thursday night. Both Bowles and Page have had major setbacks in their most recent appearances as Bowles was defeated by Dominick Cruz in his first WEC bantamweight title defense and Page ended a two-fight winning streak after being submitted by Demetrious Johnson. Obviously, Bowles' loss was more significant due to it causing the title to change hands and putting him on a path back to the title, but Page's defeat was fairly relevant as well as it derailed his progression to the top. Interestingly enough, both men have previously met as Bowles submitted Page at WEC 35 in August of 2008.
Things have changed drastically since their first encounter. Bowles went on to defeat Miguel Torres at WEC 42 to win the WEC bantamweight title. Page won his next two appearances, a brutal knockout victory over Marcos Galvao and submission win over Will Campuzano. In many minds, Page was considered one of the few bantamweights in the division who was in the mix to challenge Bowles' crown, that is until Bowles lost the title to Cruz. Now, both fighters sit on the outside looking in.
Opportunity in mixed martial arts, especially when both fighters can benefit substantially breeds greatness, and this could prove to be an one of the most action-packed fights on the card. Page has proven to be much more of a power puncher in practice than Bowles, although Bowles has always had a reputation of delivering heart-stopping power himself. Bowles is, however, more prone to going to the ground when the advantage presents itself. Page would prefer to knock your block off.
On the ground, both men can hold their own. Despite Page's propensity to punch, he's very able in the grappling department, but he is the weaker of the two in terms of submission defense. Four out of five of his losses have been by submission, including his loss to Demetrious Johnson in November. Bowles is equally dangerous, proving that he has one of the best guillotine chokes in the division. Page should know. He tapped to it.
Ring rust will have some effect on Bowles in this contest. He's been out for almost a year due to a foot injury sustained before his scheduled contest with Wagnney Fabiano in November. On paper, I think he holds the edge over Page. Page is a game opponent in every category, but Bowles is defensively better on both the feet and ground. He holds the edge in terms of proven submission ability, and he has never had to go the distance to defeat an opponent. While my better judgment believes this will be a tougher fight for Bowles than I anticipate, I think he'll find a way to submit Page on Thursday night, jogging the memory of fans who may not remember that Bowles was once the division's champion.